I have a new play.
What's it called?
Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter.
What is the story?
Well, there's this pirate...
Uh, one moment, sir.
Who are you?
I'm, uh... I'm the money.
Then you may remain so long as you remain silent. Pay attention and you will see how genius creates a legend.
Viola de Lesseps
The same, alas.
Viola de Lesseps
Oh, but why "alas"?
A lowly player.
Viola de Lesseps
Alas indeed, for I thought you the highest poet of my esteem and writer of plays that capture my heart.
Oh -- I am him too!
Only someone who loves the language can drive it to the heights of expressiveness. But love requires passion and there is passion aplenty in Shakespeare in Love, a film combining the directorial talents of John Madden with the writing talents of Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. The cast, too, is uniformly talented. Joseph Fiennes as a young Will Shakespeare, out of ideas and looking for a muse, meets Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola de Lesseps, when she first masquerades as Master Thomas Kent so she can break the ban on women on the stage and show us the very truth and nature of love.
...that I can scarcely list them all. But one in particular sticks in my mind for its nobility and its rhetorical expression of love for the theatre arts. It is spoken after Mr. Tilney, Master of the Revels (Simon Callow) closes Shakespeare's theatre, the Rose, after discovering Viola: "That woman... is a woman!" Richard Burbage (Martin Clunes), the owner of the Curtain, a competing theatre, approaches the sorrowing players in a nearby tavern, his arm in a sling from a scuffle with these same men. Burbage saves the day, saying, "The Master of the Revels despises us all for vagrants and peddlers of bombast. But my father, James Burbage, had the first license to make a company of players from Her Majesty, and he drew from poets the literature of the age. We must show them that we are men of parts. Will Shakespeare has a play. I have a theatre. The Curtain is yours."
I've watched two-hour movies that dragged on beyond their time; Shakespeare in Love not only passes before you know it's gone, but leaves you with a vivid sense of living, breathing, sweating, striving human beings from a long-ago culture. Never once does the film descend to the didactic -- something that frustrated me when I studied the Bard in college -- but instead transports an entire world into our present. This is no Droeshout engraving; I can believe this is the real Shakespeare. How did they make the common language so beautiful to my ear? I don't know. It's a mystery.
Shakespeare in Love (1998) 122 mins. Directed by John Madden. Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola De Lesseps/Master Thomas Kent, Joseph Fiennes as Will Shakespeare, Geoffrey Rush as Philip Henslowe, Tom Wilkinson as Hugh Fennyman, Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth I, Ben Affleck as Ned Alleyn, Simon Callow as Mr. Tilney, Master of the Revels, Colin Firth as Lord Wessex, Rupert Everett as Christopher Marlowe (uncredited), Martin Clunes as Richard Burbage, Steve O'Donnell as Lambert, Tim McMullen as Frees, Steven Beard as Makepeace, the Preacher, Antony Sher as Dr. Moth, Patrick Barlow as Will Kempe, Sandra Reinton as Rosaline, Bridget McConnell as Lady in Waiting, Georgie Glen as Lady in Waiting.
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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.
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